Debate: Should Phys Ed Be Mandatory?

Should physical education be a mandatory class? Two teens weigh in.

Kirn Vintage Stock/Corbis

Many schools are cutting physical education programs, citing reasons ranging from decreased funding to the pressure to focus on academics. Is this a crazy move, when more than a third of kids and teens are overweight or obese? Or does P.E. actually turn off non-athletically inclined students from exercise? Two teens take sides.


 YES:  Kids need to learn the benefits of healthy habits in school.

School is meant to prepare us for life as adults. And while I believe that math and English are important, P.E. is equally vital for our futures. There is an obesity epidemic, and exercise is a crucial way to prevent future health issues, like heart disease and diabetes. If we don’t develop healthy habits now, we never will!

The truth is, not all kids want to spend their precious extracurricular time on sports.  But that doesn’t mean they should be deprived of exercise during the school day! Plus, giving your brain a break is a necessity, and research shows that physical activity can improve your focus. It may even help you perform better on standardized tests!

You may not be the most athletic kid alive, but the benefits of exercise far outweigh the awkwardness of playing dodgeball with your classmates. Let’s keep P.E.—it helps your body and your mind.

—Mara Cobb, 17, a high school senior from KY

 NO:  Phys Ed’s group environment can make some kids dread exercise.

P.E. class isn’t necessarily fair to kids like me! Your performance is public and based on your physical ability, which either comes naturally—or not at all. And if you’re not athletically inclined (I’m definitely not!), you can feel ashamed. Personally, this class has been a source of insults, bullying, and exclusion over the years.

Luckily, P.E. is no longer needed, since there are plenty of ways to stay active outside of school. Everywhere you look, there are videos or tips for working out at home. Exercise should be a matter of personal choice, and it’s a habit we need to form on our own—so why require it academically?

At its core, P.E. is out of place in schools, and it’s wasting time we could be using to pursue more serious subjects. Let’s stay focused on what will actually help our futures. Get rid of it, I say!

—Scott Jackle, 15, a high school sophomore from NJ

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